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16 Aug

Oronsaye’s N2bn Fraud Trial: Court Overrules Afe, Admits Statements

Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja on July 3, 2017 overruled objections by Osarenkhoe Afe, to the admissibility of his statements made to the EFCC, and admitted them in evidence as Exhibits 1 and 1a.

Afe, managing director of Federick Hamilton Global Services Limited is standing trial along with Stephen Oronsaye, a former Head of Service to the Federation, for a N2 billion fraud case. They are facing an amended 35-count charge bordering on “stealing and obtaining money by false pretence”.

Afe had through his counsel, Oluwole Aladedoye, objected to the admissibility of the statements, arguing that they were obtained from his client through “oppression”, thus necessitating the commencement of a trial-within-trial.

In proving its case that the statements were made voluntarily by Afe, the prosecution led by O.A. Atolagbe, called three witnesses – operatives on the EFCC’s Pension Task Force, who testified that the statements were made by him, and that “he was not coerced” into making them.

The ruling, which lasted about an hour, brings to an end the trial-within-trial, which began on June 21, 2016. The trial judge gave the verdict in his ruling “after consciously and deliberately weighing the evidence presented to the court by the prosecution and defence”.

The statements are confessional ones made by Afe to the EFCC on February 24, 2011 and March 16, 2011 in the course of investigating five companies – Hamilton Global Services Limited; Cluster Logistic Limited; Kangolo Dynamic Cleaning Limited, and Drew Investment & Construction Company Limited – alleged to have been used to perpetrate the fraud.

“The second defendant was in a good state of mind, when he made the statements,” the judge held, noting that if indeed, he was coerced into making the statements as claimed; he never took any steps, like writing “a letter of protest” and asking “the court to order the EFCC to produce the statement he was coerced to write”.

The trial judge further held that “if in the course of proceedings, there are new developments, which put the statement in great doubt; this court has the power to expunge it, as it is easier to do that, and I don’t have power to remove evidence that has already been objected”.

Justice Kolawole, thereafter, admitted the statements exhibits in the criminal trial, and adjourned to October 12, 2017 for “continuation of judicial trial of the defendants”.

Earlier in the proceedings, the trial judge granted a motion brought by Oronsaye’s counsel, Barth Ogar, asking the court to release his client’s international passport, in order for him to travel abroad for medicals.

The trial judge ruled that: “Ogar must in the next 48 hours file a personal undertaking that the defendant shall return his passport on or before September 30 for purposes of his further trial.”

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